Kiwi in world-first graft surgery
MATT STEWART writes an article for the Dom Post on ground breaking bone graft surgery for Kiwi in Wellington Zoo, Ataahua, paraphrased below, please read Matt’s article at Stuff
Kiwi undergoes world-first surgery
In a world-first procedure, Ataahua, a North Island brown kiwi has undergone surgery at Wellington Zoo to bridge her broken beak using a bone graft from her rib.
Six vets performed the delicate two-hour procedure taking 20mm of bone from the anaesthetised six year-old kiwi’s rib and grafted it to her upper beak.
Ataahua’s beak, which broke in January, had healed badly because the two bone ends fused but did not bridge properly.
It is common for kiwi to suffer beak injuries when foraging, but usually they would die in the wild.
Zoo vet doctor Lisa Argilla said Ataahua probably broke her beak when startled while probing in the ground, probably twisting round causing her to snap her bill.
Ataahua also suffered months of multiple antibiotic-resistant infections on the ”dirty open wound,” Dr Argilla said.
Since January Ataahua has also sported a fixator – or surgical pin splint – to stabilise the fractured beak.
”Basically we needed to build a bridge, and the rib was that bridge,” Dr Argilla said.
However, Dr Argilla said the team had not foreseen how tough the rib bone would be to graft from.
Ataahua has been in the zoo’s intensive care unit for the past four months and has had her beak regularly flushed to keep it clean.
Ataahua faces another two months in intensive care followed by a further month in animal hospital.
It will be about six to eight weeks before the team know if the surgery has been a success and she will continue to be tube-fed a ”bug slurry” mix to prevent any probing that might re-break the beak.
Although optimistic she will make a full recovery, the zoo’s main concern is whether or not she will regain her sense of smell, which is crucial to finding food, and may have been affected by nerve damage around the beak suffered over the past months.